Category Archives: Trade Shows

The NAFEM Show 2017

That’s a Wrap – Our NAFEM Recap

Another NAFEM (North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers) is in the books! We had a great time walking the floor and learning more about new trends and designs that are making a splash in the world of foodservice. We got to catch up with some of our biggest vendors, as well as meet potential new ones, and discover innovations to better enable us to continue fulfilling our purpose – to equip people who feed the world.

Here’s what was hot at this year’s show.

Enhanced Technology

Technological innovations have redefined the ways nearly all industries conduct business. From the mainstream use of smart phones to advanced computer systems that save us all time and money. This is especially true in the world of foodservice. At the show we saw our share of internet-enabled remote and programmable equipment that assists in automating cooking processes while providing that individualized experience customers expect. Examples include the abundance of new coffee makers and espresso machines that can be programmed to make that trendy, high-end latte in a fraction of the time (and price) as traditional espresso machines.

There were also plenty of innovations in the beer and wine scene, like this “Growler to Go” machine that allows users to hit a button and fill their own growlers.


Putting the Customer First in Food Preparation

Manufacturers continue to go out of their way to deliver new solutions to better enhance the customer experience. This year’s big focus was on color-coding supplies to prevent cross-contamination, accommodating guests with dietary restrictions. This includes tools for allergy-friendly food preparation. Be on the lookout for more purple products, like storage containers and cutting boards, that signify the product is may contain a popular allergen, like peanuts.


San Jamar unveiled their new bandage dispenser with blue bandages that standout more in food dishes than traditional beige bandages, making them easier to spot and keeping sanitary food prep practices the main priority.

More Environmental and Budget Friendly Options

Another trend in recent years is putting an emphasis on social responsibility and being conscience of energy consumption. This year, every category offered new products that provide high performance without consuming the amount of energy they used to. Such products include holding and transport equipment that can retain heat longer without a utility hookup, and green servingware options.

Water-saving options were also plentiful.

As a distributor, trade shows like this provide an incredible opportunity to network and learn more about what we can be offering to better serve our customers. But the benefits don’t stop there. NAFEM is a great opportunity for anyone involved in the foodservice industry. Meet with like-minded industry professionals, share stories, learn from the best, showcase your products and discover innovations that could transform the way you do business. The next NAFEM will be hosted February 7 – 9, 2019 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. We hope to see you there!

NAFEM Show 2017: What to Expect

The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers Trade Show, also known as the NAFEM Show, takes place every two years and brings together over 500 manufacturers to showcase the latest products, review latest trends and provide other learning and networking opportunities for those in the foodservice industry. The 2017 show will take place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL on February 9-11. If you are attending this year’s show, here are some helpful tips and products to look out for.

Also, be sure to follow Central on the social media platforms you participate in for live updates, pictures and more! We will be providing live video from the show floor on Facebook, so stay tuned!

Schedule and Floor Plan 

The 2017 NAFEM Show schedule is as follows:

Wednesday February 8: Kick-off party from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday February 9: Show floor open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday February 10: Show floor open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday February 11: Show floor open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., after-show party from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Each year the after-show party features a dinner reception and live concert. This year’s concert will feature The Killers. (Didn’t buy tickets? Click here).

When it comes to the floor plan, there is much ground to be covered in the three days the show floor is open. The NAFEM Show map is helpful to determine which booths you may want to go to. The NAFEM Show mobile app is also available with benefits for attendees and exhibitors to have a successful show experience.

Sneak Peek of New Products

The most exciting part of the NAFEM Show is the opportunity to see new products from manufacturers. Each NAFEM, manufacturers unveil their latest and greatest items. In 2015, allergen identifiers and induction were hot topics. This year, expect to see more energy-efficient solutions in refrigeration, cooking and more! Our team will be on the show floor looking for the latest trends, so be sure to follow us this weekend as we give you the scoop!

What’s Hot, What’s Cool® 

Each show, NAFEM spotlights some of the newest product offerings in their WHAT’S HOT! WHAT’S COOL!® booth, located in Booth 1840. The booth this year will highlight some of the following trends:

  • Better Tech
  • Labor Lifesavers
  • Consumer-First Innovations
  • Eco (and Budget) Friendly Options

New this year to the WHAT’S HOT! WHAT’S COOL!® booth is their Inspiration Station – a series of four discussions designed to generate conversation around the latest equipment and supplies trends. The series will be led by Mike Colburn and Mary Esther Treat, founders of product design firm Ideas Well Done. Inspiration Station discussions will take place Feb. 10 and 11, from 11 – 11:30 a.m. and 2 – 2:30 p.m.

For more information, visit the NAFEM Show website here. Or follow them on Twitter for further updates.

NRA Show 2015

NRA Show 2015: Trending Topics, Keynote and Favorite Foods

NRA Show 2015

For those in the foodservice and restaurant industry, the National Restaurant Association’s annual NRA Show is such an exciting event. This trade show provides the opportunity for industry members to connect with each other to taste new foods, learn about the latest trends, find foodservice equipment and so much more.

“It’s an energy that only the hospitality industry can create,” the NRA said.

Below are some of the latest trends and information from the show. If you were able to attend this year’s event, post about your favorite things in the comments! Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need help finding a piece of equipment or supply you were interested in.

NRA Show 2015Trending Topics

Food and Menu

In an NRA Show convenience store presentation, it was found that sandwiches, wraps, paninis and subs were on 98 percent of menus, taking the lead of all food items.

Hot dogs and sausages came in second on 86 percent of menus, followed by breakfast items also on 86 percent. See the rest of the trends on the image shown on the right. See all trends in this Tweet from Hobart.

In other general trends, expect to start seeing more honey. In an article by Nations Restaurant News from the session “Get Your Honey’s Worth,” honey has been named the “Flavor of the Year” and chefs are learning all types of ways to incorporate into menus.


In this day in age, reviews have become imperative to restaurant-goers. According to Review Trackers, despite what many some think, review sites like Yelp have a higher amount of good ratings for restaurants. In fact, they said that 67 percent of all Yelp reviews have four and five star ratings. When it comes to reviews as a whole, Review Trackers said to trust the customer. From their research, many restaurateurs fear one negative review can ruin their reputation when in fact society today can see through the negativity.


Sustainability has done a complete 360. Today, it’s not only recognized in equipment and packaging, but the NRA Show held sessions to help restaurateurs learn how to have a more eco-friendly operation.

“There are dozens of companies at this year’s show displaying different equipment, products and service to reduce restaurants’ carbon footprints,” explained QSR Magazine.

Food Allergies

“Purple” could be seen at many foodservice equipment and supplier booths at this year’s NRA Show. Products color coded purple are to be used with customers with food allergies to help combat cross-contamination. From containers and knives to carts and blenders, the foodservice industry has recognized the increase of consumers with food allergies and are adding more and more products to help restaurants prepare safe meals, as well as bring more awareness to staff.

3D Printing

One of the most fascinating booths at the NRA Show was the 3D Printing Zone. Guests could stop by the booth for samples of geometric candies and the chance to learn about the future of this technology from ChefJet Pro. According to the NRA, ChefJet Pro is the first professional-grade 3D food printer which could be used in commercial kitchens. “The full-color ChefJet Pro will be food certified and produce 3D printed confections in a number of recipes and flavors, including sugar, frosting and candy in many sweet and sour flavors,” they said. The actual printer is expected to be available sometime later in 2015.


This year’s NRA Show keynote speaker was Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington. In Nation’s Restaurant News’ (NRN) recap, they said Huffington shared her story and discussed the American Dream. NRN explained Huffington’s keynote heavily discussed the health risks associated with workplace that over-work employees which she said is the equivalent to coming to work intoxicated. “The American workpalce is one built on a culture of sleep deprivation,” the NRN quoted.

Huffington’s keynote stressed the importance of sleep and stress-reduction in the workplace to help employees be healthier and happier which in turn will help them to be more productive.

Also during the keynote, NRN explained Huffington’s discussion was disrupted by protesters who were advocating for a higher minimum wage.

“Huffington didn’t comment on wages specifically, but she noted that the restaurant industry is a bridge for many who strive for the American dream,” they said.

Favorite Foods

The variety of food served at the NRA Show is simply incredible. Show-goers can get all meals in simply by walking the floor and grabbing samples. (Don’t worry, it’s estimated you can walk 10 miles at the show, so it’s burned off, right?)

From snacks and entrees to juices and alcoholic beverages, the NRA Show truly has it all. Below are some fan favorites from all of those using the #NRAShow2015 hashtag on social media! Please share your favorites below in the comments.


NRA Show

NRA Show 2015: Resource Guide and Event Calendar

NRA Show 2015

It’s that time of year again, the National Restaurant Association (NRA Show). This annual event is an opportunity for everyone in the foodservice industry, from buyers to restaurant owners, to come together, connect and find new products, solutions and more. The event will be held May 16 through May 19 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. If you haven’t registered, there’s still time!  You can register on the Attendee Online Registration page and can pick up your badge from any of their Registration Desks.


NRA Show AppNRA App

Smartphone users have all details right at their fingertips with the NRA Show 2015 app. Go to your app store and search “NRA Show 2015.” The app has several tools to help attendees stay organized such as a schedule, list of exhibitors, maps, events and sessions, guest speakers, show documents and other important information. Attendees can fill out their profile and make it public to connect with others at the show.


There’s much to see at the show, so the NRA has provided a map that covers all three floors. Search by exhibitor to ensure you don’t miss a place you’d like to visit.


Below are the hours posted by the NRA:

  • Saturday May 16: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday May 17: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Monday May 18: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday May 19: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Browse through all 2,000 exhibitors straight from the website as well as Healthier Kids Fare exhibitors, new products and show specials.


Rooftop Garden TourVegetable Bounty
Daily Tours Starting at 10 a.m.

The midwest’s largest rooftop garden sits at the top of McCormick Place! Take a tour and learn how this garden provides fresh produce on-site and to local venues. Tickets are free and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at 8 a.m. each morning of the show at the Grand Ballroom Foyer. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity.

Block Party
Monday May 18, 2015, 9 p.m. to Midnight

NRA has lined up some of Chicago’s hottest bars and restaurants for their annual Block Party. Admission is free with your badge, just stop by the McCormick Place Concierge Desk near Gate 4 to pick up your map/badge for the event. There will be complimentary drinks and entertainment at each venue, so be sure to hit every stop! Participants include Howl at the Moon, Bub City, Rockit Bar & Grill, Underground and Untitled.

Restaurant Finance Summit 2015: Strategies for Growth and Liquidity
Monday May 18, 2015, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Room N426, McCormick Place

Join finance leaders from across the industry for an important program on preparing for and executing growth and/or liquidity strategies in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality space. Tickets are $299 (NRA show registration is included in the price). A luncheon and keynote will kick off the program.

Keynote Presentation – State of the American Dream 2015: Empowerment
Sunday May 17 at 2 p.m. in the McCormick Place Grand Ballroom

Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post Media Group will be the keynote speaker. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. Admission is free with your NRA or BAR show badge.

Restaurants Rock
Sunday May 17 at 9 p.m. at House of Blues Chicago

NRA describes this as the official party of the NRA 2015 Show. It’s $50 per ticket and is an opportunity for all attendees and exhibitors for come together for live music, food and drinks. Hosted by Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, this event will feature the Star of the Bar mixology competition finals and 80s cover band Sixteen Candles.


Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants 2015dining room beer wine glasses

Formerly the International Wine, Spirits and Beer Event, BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants) will take place alongside the NRA Show and will feature all things wine, spirits and beer from May 17-18. NRA says it will include C-level executives beverage distributors, chefs, and purchasing agents. Features include restaurant menu pairings, demo lounges and mixology competitions.

World Culinary Showcase

The World Culinary Showcase will be held at various times between Saturday May 16 through Tuesday May 19. The NRA said this is an event for “top chefs and culinary trailblazers to show off their techniques.” Book signings follow several of the chefs. View more information on the website.

3D Printing Zone

Check out the future of foodservice technology at the 3D Printing Zone, located at booth #9422 in Lakeside Center. 3D systems will be handing out 3D printed geometric candies and demonstrating their ChefJet Pro, the world’s first professional-grade food 3D printer.

Specialty Pavilions

There will be various pavilions for attendees to check out during the show: Kitchen Innovations Pavilion, Foodamental Studio, Alternative BiteStyle, Organic & Natural, Conserve Solutions Center, Franchise Pavilion, Tech Pavilion and the NRA Booth. Read more about each on the website.

Startup Alley

NRA’s newest exhibit, Startup Alley is located in Lakeside Center booth #9416. This section gives startups in the restaurant technology industry  a chance to showcase their products. Featured companies can be found on the website.

Visit the NRA Show 2015 website for all information. See you there!

NAFEM Show 2015 Food Service Trends

Now that our legs and feet are finally feeling better after walking the NAFEM Show floor, we’re starting to talk about the great new products and trends that we noticed while we visited. NAFEM promoted new trends in their What’s Hot! What’s Cool!® trend galleries, but there were a few others that were visible in many vendors’ booths. So, what’s on trend for 2015? Keep reading to find out!

What’s Hot! What’s Cool!® Galleries

American Metalcraft products at the NAFEM Show 2015

American Metalcraft products at the NAFEM Show 2015

Four booths at the NAFEM Show 2015 were designated to promote the current and upcoming food service trends. Each booth had a different topic.

Community Responsibility

This booth was designated to talk about the responsibility of sharing the earth and the long-term impact of everyone’s actions. The food service industry holds great influential power to achieve these goals. Commercial food service equipment and supplies have the potential to influence product creation down to the home consumer. Stopping by this booth showed the way that food service operations can be designed, built and operated. “This includes imagining kitchens that support optimal preparation of fresh, local, farm-to-table or even ‘cook-to-table’ foods and selecting energy- and water-efficient equipment and environmentally friendly materials,” the NAFEM Show states.

Global Flavors & Craft Preparation

At this booth, the increase in customers interest of cuisines that are sophisticated and adventurous were on display. There is a growing opportunity for food service professionals to use expertise or add value to the meal through skills that are crated for fine food. This opportunity challenges operators to “demonstrate knowledge and authority of preparation methods, process and service of globally relevant flavors and hand-crafted dishes.” This booth also noted that food service professionals will still rely on authentic cooking methods and tools, serving dishes and tabletop décor along with open kitchen display cooking. This will offer menu items that present global diversity and shows off your operation’s craft preparation skills.

Health & Wellness

Vollrath's allergy-safe products at the NAFEM Show 2015

Vollrath’s allergy-safe products at the NAFEM Show 2015

Health and wellness has been a hot trend in the food service industry for a few years now, but it is becoming more and more mainstream. The industry has been known for indulging in delicious food that you can’t always have at home, but now they are more responsible for offering healthy, everyday foods for the customers. When NAFEM attendees visited this booth, they learned about addressing “dietary requests or food allergies, promoting health and wellness, portion control, calorie quality, whole grains and plant proteins including nuts, legumes and healthy oils.”

Productivity, Efficiency & Precision

The final booth from the What’s Hot! What’s Cool!® trend galleries focused on the challenges food service operations face every day. These challenges include competition and productivity increases, efficiency and precision. The operation and person in charge must face these challenges and explore and responsibly use financial, personal and technological resources for a better operation. “Operators need equipment and supplies that automate or simplify processes, reduce overhead, perform multiple functions, or serve satisfying menu items with consistency, flexibility and speed.”

NAFEM 2015 Vendor Trends

While the What’s Hot! What’s Cool!® booths hit on all of the popular trends, there were two others that were prominent across vendor booths.

Lakeside's allergy-safe cart at the NAFEM Show 2015

Lakeside’s allergy-safe cart at the NAFEM Show 2015

Getting kids to eat healthy at school has been a hot topic for years, and is still prevalent today. This change isn’t going anywhere, so schools have to find ways to get students to actually eat their healthy meals instead of throwing it away. For example, at the Edlund booth, they explained that kids don’t like when zucchini is just a round slice in a cup. Instead, they found that cutting them into fry-shapes and serving them with a dip gets the kids to actually try zucchini and actually eat it. Tablecraft and American Metalcraft were presenting new ways to serve food to show it in an appealing way to kids at schools.

Allergy-safe products have been a hot trend in the past few years, but have now become a mainstream staple in every kitchen because of the uprise in gluten sensitivity and food allergies. Vollrath introduced a new purple line to follow suit with allergy-safe products. Cambro also introducted allergy-safe storage containers for putting away certain utensils and ingredients to avoid cross contamination. Lakeside created a complete allergy-safe cart – it’s even purple!

Finally, induction was huge across the board in the cooking department. Ranging from stovetops, buffet stations to soup warmers, induction was everywhere and in any product you can think of. Induction not necessarily new technology, but is considered to be one of the safest ways to cook. Induction works by heating a cooking vessel (such as a pan) by electromagnetic induction, instead of using a flame or electric heating element. Induction provides faster and more consistent heating, so it’s no wonder it’s becoming a hot commodity throughout the food service world!

What did trends did you see at the NAFEM Show 2015? Let us know in the comments!

10 Attractions and Restaurants to Visit While at the NAFEM Show in Anaheim

Going to be in Anaheim this weekend for the NAFEM conference? Here is a list 10 things to do with your free time while on the West Coast!

  1. Anaheim White House Restaurant

    White House

    This upscale Italian steak house and is sure to please your taste buds, not so much your wallet.

  1. Roy’s


    Beautiful dishes are Roy’s specialty. Their unique menu includes a Hawaiian flavor and the dining room has a exhuberant flare.

  1. Napa Rose

    Napa Rose
    Located in Disney’s Grand Californian hotel, this restaurant provides a complete Californian experience.

  2. Old Towne, Orange Historic District


    If you like the richness of historic buildings, then the Old Towne Orange Historic District is the perfect place to spend your free time!

  3. Muzeo – Museum and Cultural Center


    Muzeo is a celebration of diversity and cultural difference. This attraction has a variety of events and activities that are great for all ages.

  4. Flight Deck Air Combat Center


    Ever wanted to know what it is like to fly an 8 fighter jet? Flight Deck Air Combat Center offers a flight simulation that is as real as it gets!

  5. City National Grove of Anaheim

    City Grove

    This Anaheim attraction has hosted concerts of some of the biggest names in the music industry.

  6. Center Street Promenade

    Shopping, restaurants and the Carnegie Library all await in the center of Historic Anaheim.

  7. Knott’s Berry Farm


    Famous for its boysenberry pie, chicken dinner and amusement rides, Knott’s is sure to provide a good time.

  8. Last, but not least, you can visit Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure, or Downtown Disney!



    Who doesn’t love Disneyland? Downtown Disney is a great place to walk around to enjoy the sights and grab dinner.



Images used from each of the attraction’s websites.

Featured image courtesy of Cambro Manufacturing.

Food Trend Blog

Top Food Trends at NRA 2014

Another NRA Show is in the books. If you attended, we hope you had a great show! The Central team had a chance to settle down from the excitement and share with you some of the top trends we saw coming out of the show.

Gluten-Free Foods

One of the biggest trends at NRA was gluten-free options. Of course, it has been gaining momentum for a couple of years now, but seeing what some companies are doing is really cool. Take for example, Kiki’s Gluten Free Foods. They introduced a gluten-free deep dish pizza, which a few years ago would’ve been unheard of. And Deya Gluten Free is making a gluten free flour where the main ingredient is dried egg whites. These new options should make life for people with Celiac disease or gluten allergies a lot better.

Natural Ingredients

As we start to see a more health-conscious consumer, it’s only natural to see healthier options being introduced. We saw a ton of healthy options, from burgers made with veggies and chia seeds to milk made with quinoa. Another popular trend was brands advertising products made with no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or corn syrup.

Better-For-You School Options

There are several companies trying to develop healthier options for school systems. According to Food Business News, exhibitors such as Skeeter Nut Free were introducing snacks that meet the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards that go into effect July 1st. In Skeeter Nut Free’s case, they introduced single-serve bags of graham crackers that are 100% nut free. Other exhibitors, such as Hormel, are offering options such as the Fuse Burger, which combines ground turkey with spinach, brown rice, roasted onions and dried cherries, to deliver a burger with a favorable nutrition profile.

Which trends did you see at NRA 2014 that stood out to you? Let us know in the comments section below.